When it comes to breeding, we often don’t think about
everything that we may be faced with.
Even breeders with decades of experience are thrown for a loop from time to time when a bitch will present them with a new challenge or problem. One problem that we often see is feeding problems and many breeders learn very early how to express milk from a dog.
Today, we are going to go over why you may need to express
milk from a dog as well as how to express milk.
Why Breeders Need to Express Milk from a Dog
Expressing milk from your dog isn’t always a regular thing
that you will do. It can be quite common for you to go litter after litter without having to express milk, however, there are occasions when it can be something you do frequently.
Reasons that a breeder will express milk are:
Feeding a Sick or Weak Puppy
Some puppies have a difficult time thriving for various reasons, including a poor sucking reflex. While you can purchase puppy formula, when puppies are first born, they need colostrum to help build antibodies and strength. If a puppy isn’t nursing, it is important to tube feed the colostrum, which means you will need to express it from the lactating dam.
There are instances where the dam may not be producing enough milk. Expressing milk between feedings can help increase supply because the dog’s body indicates that there is more demand.
Sometimes, mom will produce more milk than she needs for her puppies and her teats may become engorged. This can lead to complications such as mastitis so it is good to express the milk to reduce engorgement and other complications.
When a dog develops mastitis, many vets will recommend that you express the milk to help with healing. This will also keep them from being engorged. If you express the milk from a teat affected by mastitis, be sure to throw away the milk.
There can be other reasons to. I like to express a small
amount every day to make sure that there is no sign of mastitis occurring or other complications. However, I never take off a full feeding of milk unless it is going to be used.
What You Need to Express Milk from a Dog
Now that you know the reasons why, it’s time to move on to
actually expressing the milk. When it comes to actually expressing, you don’t really need a large number of supplies to express the milk.
If you are going to throw the milk away, you can simply express right into a towel. However, if you are planning on using the milk, you will need a few extra items.
Materials that I recommend everyone use are:
Not everyone agrees but I always wear latex gloves when I am expressing. First, if the dog has an infection, you do not want to cross contaminate anything or put yourself at risk for an infection. The gloves are there for safety. Secondly, if you are collecting the milk for drinking, you want to minimize the chance of bacteria getting in the milk.
Have a few, clean clothes available. These will be used for cleaning up the teat as well as for helping with encouraging the letdown.
This can be a bottle or any type of plastic container that is easy to hold. I like to use medicine cups so it will also show me the cc’s that I am collecting.
And that is it. Obviously, if you are feeding puppies, you
will want feeding tubes or bottles for the milk but that is not the materials you need to get the milk from mom.
How to Express Milk from a Dog
So, you’ve gathered up your materials, you know that you
need to express but at this point, you may not be sure how to express.
Believe it or not, expressing milk from a dog can be very easy. In fact, some dogs produce so much milk that simply lifting the teat can cause milk to be expressed.
However, let’s go over how to express milk from your lactating
dam. At the end of this article, there is a video, which will give you a better view of how to express.
Step #1 :Place the Dog in a
First, you will want to place your dog in a comfortable position
and in an area where she is relaxed. Usually, you get the best collection when the dog is lying on her side, however, some dogs express better if they are standing.
I find that having them lay on their back or sit produces
less milk or makes it more difficult to work with the dog and get it into the collection cup. Also, depending on the dog, you may need someone with you to help keep her calm and relaxed, especially if the teat is painful from mastitis.
Make sure that the area is relaxing for her and try to keep her
in a clean area. Whelping areas should be clean to prevent infection so that is often a great place to express milk. However, if you don’t want the puppies getting in the way, do the collection outside of the whelping box.
Step #2 :Clean the Teats
This goes back to preventing infection and cross contamination,
but the very first thing you will want to do is clean the dam’s breasts. You don’t need a harsh chemical or anything, soap and water will work. If you use soap, be sure to wash the breast tissue off thoroughly. In addition, be sure to dry the skin, especially where it falls and lays on against other teats.
Step #3 :Place a Warm Cloth on the Skin
Once the area is clean, dampen a cloth with warm water. You
want the temperature to be slightly above room temperature but not too hot where it will burn the dog’s skin.
Place the damp cloth on the teat you will be expressing and
leave for a few minutes. This can help with the let down and is very important if your dog has a blocked duct or engorgement.
Remove the cloth and move it to another breast while you are
expressing the first one. If you need to, dampen the cloth with warm water every time it cools.
Step #4: Cup the Breast
Now that your dog is ready to be expressed, gently pick up the
nipple you are going to be expressing. You want to cup the base of the breast in your palm and place your thumb on the nipple itself. Pinch the nipple between your thumb and four fingers.
I find that it works best if my fingers are under the nipple
and thumb is on top to help control the movement of the nipple.
Step # 5: Place the Nipple in the Collection Cup
Before you start expressing, take the collection cup and
place it near the nipple. You want the tip of the nipple to be positioned over the cup but not really resting in it. Use your free hand to hold the collection cup as it is very easy to spill it if the dog moves.
#Step 6: Squeeze and Pull Up Gently
Once you have a comfortable grip on the nipple, squeeze on
the skin and gently pull up toward the end of the nipple, away from the dog’s body. The milk should squeeze out with this simple motion. You may have to adjust your hand position if you aren’t finding a lot of milk coming out.
#Step 7: Relax
By relaxing your hand, the teat has the opportunity to fill
again with the pumping motion.
# Step 8: Repeat
#Step 9: Move to the Next
When the teat feels empty, if you are collecting for
feedings, you will want to move to the next nipple and repeat steps three to eight.
Move to every nipple and express them until all are empty. You may find that you need a different collection cup between each nipple, or even several per nipple depending on your mom and breed.
As mentioned, expressing isn’t difficult, but you can also
make a breast pump, which makes it even easier. Later in this article, I will go over how to not only make a breast pump, but also use it.
Expressing Milk Procedure Video
Now that we have gone over how to express milk from a dog, it is good to look at a video of doing the expression. This video is very good at showing you what the breeder is doing and a good way to collect the milk.
How To Use a Breast Pump to Express Milk
If you are looking for an alternate way to express milk from your bitch, you can create a breast pump. Many breeders swear by this little tool and it is a great way to get milk quickly from the dam.
It helps with collection and is excellent for expressing colostrum from the breast. I only use a pump if the dam is not producing a lot of milk and I need to get some off to feed a weak puppy.
To use a breast pump, you will need to make one, which you can do by following this how-to video.
- 1Take a large syringe and separate the parts.
- 2Saw off the end of the tube that has the small hole.
- 3Sand off the cut edges so it is smooth and there isn't any plastic flaking off. This is really important as you don't want plastic in the milk.
- 4Flip the syringe around and push the plunger through the cut end (opposite from how it normally works).
And that is all you have to do to have a properly functioning breast pump.
To use the breast pump, follow these steps:
- 1Place the female in either a standing or lying position. If it is the lying position, make sure she is on her side and not on her back.
- 2Make sure the plunger is pushed all the way down.
- 3Press the flat of the syringe against the nipple you are expressing milk from. You want it to be firmly against it so it is tight against the skin.
- 4Pull the plunger and the milk will suction out of the nipple.
- 5Carefully remove from the skin and pour into a container.
As you can see, expressing milk from a dog is not difficult. It can be done quickly and, in the event of a sick or non-thriving puppy, can be a life saving skill to develop and one I recommend that all breeders should learn.